WVN #37: high school proposal - what's the rush?
- Wayland Voters Network
September 27, 2004
Dear Wayland Voter:
ONE VOTE OR TWO ON HIGH SCHOOL PROPOSAL? AND WHEN?
These were the hot topics at last week's meetings of the School
Committee and the High School Building Committee:
1)Whether to have one ballot question on the high school proposal,
whereby voters would be asked to approve or reject the entire $56
million plan to demolish Wayland High School (except the Field House)
and replace it with a new structure;
2)Or whether to have two ballot questions, the first asking voters to
approve or reject $4 million for design money, and the second at a
later date re. the project balance of $50+ million;
3)And when to hold the one or two votes.
These questions may be answered tonight, Monday, Sept. 27, when the
Selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee hold a joint
meeting, 8:30-9:30pm, in the Selectmen's Room (broadcast on the
Wayland Cable Channel).
Following are detailed reports on last week's School Committee
meeting, submitted by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca; and last week's
High School Building Committee meeting, submitted by WVN Treasurer
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING 9/20/04
The primary topic of discussion at this regular School Committee
meeting was the timing of a ballot question and Special Town Meeting
on the high school proposal. High School Building Committee Chair
Lea Anderson met with the School Committee to report on her group's
meeting with the Finance Committee.
One major question is whether to hold one vote for the entire
proposal or hold a split vote: one in the near future for $4 million
for design money and another later on for the $50+ million balance of
The SC discussed the HSBC's latest self-imposed scheduling plans for
the project, which propose that classrooms be completed by 2007 and
the balance of the project be completed in 2009. Superintendent Gary
Burton commented that at least an initial approval from the town
needed to occur before February to keep the project on schedule.
There is an assumption that HMFH will continue on as architects for
the proposed $56 million project.
Presentation materials adequate for a design money vote will be
available on November 15. Materials adequate for a full project vote
will take longer.
Anderson's first choice is a full project vote in January; her second
choice is a design money vote in November. Burton said he did not
believe the Fincom and Selectmen would support a January vote. School
Committee member Bob Gordon said they should come up with a decision
immediately, and that they should go for one vote. Member Fred
Knight disagreed, saying they should wait until final School Building
Assistance regulations are in place before asking the town to vote on
the whole project. He also believes it will be easier to get the
town to approve a smaller initial amount. Gordon responded that it
will be easier to sell a vague concept than a fully designed project
where specific choices have already been made.
A consensus developed that December 7 is the earliest the School
Committee can be ready for a vote, and it must be held by the end of
January at the latest. SC members remained split on the question of
one vote or two, with Gordon and Jeff Dieffenbach arguing for a
single vote and Knight and Heather Pineault favoring a two-vote
strategy. Burton urged the group to come up with a unified position
to present to the Fincom and Selectmen at their joint meeting on
Sept. 27, because otherwise the School Committee would be ceding
power to the other boards. They all agreed to meet an hour before
the joint meeting on the 27th and vote on a recommendation.
Dieffenbach agreed to prepare two presentations, one with each
option, for potential use.
Modular Science Labs - Burton announced that he plans to ask for
modular science labs at Annual Town Meeting in the spring. The
modulars would accommodate the peak student population at the high
school, projected to be reached before the proposed new classrooms
can be completed (begging the question: so what's the rush to tear
down the high school and build a new one if the use of modulars will
accommodate the peak student population?).
Email Lists - Pineault reported that the schools are planning to
collect email addresses to be used for information dissemination
("News and Views") by the School Committee. They will be used
for "pre-ballot" information, but cannot legally be used for
political purposes once the ballot is actually scheduled. Knight has
already set up a listserv for the purpose.
HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING COMMITTEE MEETING 9/23/04
How do you feel about a Special Town Election on Nov. 30 followed by
a Special Town Meeting the next night?
The High School Building Committee, which has been pushing for an
early vote, agreed that they didn't like that proposal, but disagreed
about other ideas on scheduling a special election on the proposed
$56 million building project.
The School Committee, which created the HSBC and asked for its advice
on timing, will recommend a course of action to the Finance Committee
and Board of Selectmen, perhaps when the three groups meet on Sept.
27. The town already plans a vote, probably in April, for an
operating budget override of as much as $1.5 million.
There was no clear consensus from the HSBC except that they hope to
have classrooms completed by September 2007 and common spaces two
years later. To accomplish this, voters would have to approve the
project by early next year and, as HSBC member Joe Lewin put it, "the
dominoes would have to fall our way." (The site contains many
environmentally sensitive areas and the permitting process could be
Member Dianne Bladon argued persistently for enough time to "sell"
the town on the project, saying "it wouldn't be a quality job" if
rushed. The committee would damage its credibility by making its
case without enough time and information, she said.
Superintendent Gary Burton recommended a vote before January, saying
it would increase the chance of unanimous Board endorsements and
avoid "allegations that we waited for people to leave town."
Some members argued for two votes rather than one. That is, a special
election, preferably in December or January, seeking approval for
about $4 million in design funds. A separate election could be
delayed, until 2006 if necessary, to seek approval for the remaining
money. But more voices seemed to favor going for the entire amount
Members talked about "dog and pony shows," getting out the vote among
parents and holding coffee hours with citizens.
"If we can spoon feed them, it's not too early to get the word out,"
said Cindy Lombardo.
The committee will face challenges as it presents its case in what's
expected to be a relatively short timeframe:
-- Experts warn of environmental unknowns that could slow the project.
-- The design of the building has changed with every recent HSBC
meeting and the committee is pushing the architects and project
manager to move faster to a final version. Even perspective drawings
of the buildings - scheduled to be ready before the end of October
won't necessarily resemble the final project closely. (WVN readers
may recall the difference between architect drawings of the Public
Safety Building and the final product.) The public will have little
chance to make suggestions. As HSBC Chair Lea Anderson said, "We're
not looking for a lot of feedback that would result in changes."
-- The HSBC and town officials are still tinkering with a tax-impact
analysis. Even when they issue a final draft, it won't answer two
very important questions: what the interest rates will be several
years in the future; and whether Wayland will receive any money from
the state's new School Building Assistance program.
-- Though there is no guarantee of state aid, HSBC members continue
to assume that it will be granted at a certain reimbursement rate,
resulting in state aid eventually covering about $18 million of the
cost. But the rules under which Wayland can apply in July 2007 won't
even be issued until mid-2006. If state aid is granted, but at a
smaller reimbursement percentage than currently assumed, the tax
impact would increase accordingly. If no state aid is forthcoming,
the tax bite would rise by more than 50 percent.
Still, HSBC members make it clear that they will work with whatever
timetable the Selectmen choose, and they will continue to push for
their self-imposed plan which they hope will result in new classrooms
three years from now. Only Joe Lewin asked the question, "If we
don't move now, what are the consequences?... How important is
2007?" No one answered.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer